I’ve mentioned this before but anyone with any ideas?

The standard life of a freelance is the search for some easy, plentiful, even if not especially well paid, source of work. Sure, writing a newspaper piece is fun but it’s rare to be offered the opportunity. And you’d not want to rely upon the offer to do so to pay the food bill. A more basic income is required to make sure the bills get paid.

There’s one form of writing work that is out there in vast mountains. Writing the landing pages etc for online retailers. 300 to 400 words each, should, if you’ve got the knack, take perhaps 20 minutes a pop. Sure, $25 an hour or whatever doesn’t sound like much. But a couple of hours a day fills that desired basic bill paying described above.

And the thing is, as I’ve mentioned, I find that I can’t do it. I should be able to. And, almost certainly, if I practice, I can. Which is the ideas thing.

Anyone got a clue as to where I can learn to do this stuff?

25 comments on “I’ve mentioned this before but anyone with any ideas?

  1. TBH Tim, it sounds like a whole load of not worth it to me.

    Why spend 2 hours a day churning out guff to earn $250 a week when you could spend 2 hours a day researching and writing a feature for $500 (or more)?

    Also, is that right, the rate for this work is $25 per 1,000 words?

  2. Most digital agencies employ professional copywriters. Some are freelance.

    Look up Drayton Bird.

  3. MC, yes that is about the rate for blurb. And that’s not Bangladeshis on odesk, that’s for westerners who can do pitch and blurb well. Totally oversaturated market

    I don’t understand Tim’s ongoing desire to sell into an oversaturated market in which there is no prospect of earning more than peanuts unless you become one of the best-known at it. It’s no more sensible than the belief so many people have that they can write fiction for a living and their third novel that they spent a year on will be the one that pays off. I guess we all get to be economically irrational at times.

    There is a tournament wage sector at the top of every nonfiction writing market, but these niches are tiny and fully occupied. At that level it’s no longer about the speed of output, but the perfection thereof. Jenny’s Online Cupcake Store is never going to pay that tournament wage, and Chanel, Dior, and Rolex already have their own blurb writers, most working in high-end ad agencies, and ain’t gonna replace them with an unknown. Like any career it takes time and effort. Being a creative job it also takes an insane level of dedication to get there.

  4. And can it be learned, really? I’ve always been rubbish at writing CVs. Fortunately, I haven’t had to do one for years, but I do have an entry on my Chambers website and I’m always unhappy with it – which comes, I think, from too much awareness of how ridiculous it feels. It’s too self-conscious a thing for me to be good at. Others are very good at it, though. And, Tom, your style of writing is knowing, critical, sarcastic and rejoices in poking fun. I’d have thought that was the precise opposite of what retailers mostly want. I mean, just look at your own description of yourself, “…and Englishman who has failed at many things …” etc. It’s witty. But self-deprecation is not high on retailers’ wishlists, is it?

    Not to say that there aren’t writers who can mimic others, but you’ve got to be someone like William Boyd to do it on any scale. And that is a rare talent indeed.

  5. Landing pages

    If the landing pages of the slot gaming landing pages are anything to go by then just saying landing pages as often as you can in the landing pages would seem to be the secret of writing landing pages blurb for landing pages.

    Landing pages.

    Landing.

    Pages.

  6. Sounds like there’s a basic error going on here that I’ve always counselled against. Don’t start from the basis of what you can & like doing & trying to find someone who’ll pay you for doing it. You wont be the only one & you’ll be competing against all, the others with the same idea.
    Look, really look, around with an open mind for the thing that people want & aren’t getting & learn how to provide & sell it it to them. It sounds simple & obvious but so few people actually do so.
    And never ever be complacent. Just because something’s successful today doesn’t mean it’ll be successful tomorrow. Everything changes. Always be looking around for the next opportunity. The time to change is before you’re forced to change. The more you do this, the easier it becomes. Things you learn in one field you find can apply in another. The more diverse one’s knowledge to more likely you are to spot solutions other people can’t see.

  7. bis,

    yes, in spades. And then learn to love what you’ve ended up doing. That’s the secret for a happy life.

  8. There is a huge demand for ‘content’ of one sort or another and you can get pretty well paid for producing it (this is what I do).

    It helps to have a niche.

    $25 per 1,000 words is dogshit.

  9. More like $20 per 350 words in what I’m talking about. So it’s not great but if I was actually able to do it something that would pleasantly pass 90 miniutes a day.

  10. @ BiG
    I have a deep & abiding love affair with money. What dress she happens to be wearing is of little import.

  11. It’s no more sensible than the belief so many people have that they can write fiction for a living and their third novel that they spent a year on will be the one that pays off.

    I made a tonne of money from my book.

    If I converted the sales into Venezuelan Bolivars.

  12. bis,

    “Look, really look, around with an open mind for the thing that people want & aren’t getting & learn how to provide & sell it it to them. It sounds simple & obvious but so few people actually do so.”

    I think you have to work within what I think of as innate core talents, though. Like a lot of filmmakers originally studied painting. As painting dried up, they became cameramen. David Mamet made his real money not from writing great plays for the stage, but from uncredited script writing for movies.

    But I know programmers who spend time making games (sometimes quitting jobs to do so), and that’s a waste of time. There are 15,000 games for sale on Steam alone. Probably more on iPhone. Unless you’ve got a concept that’s really novel, you’re going to be competing with hundreds, maybe thousands of similar games.

  13. @Tim W – that’s better, but it is still a bit rubbish. I also don’t reckon you could knock out 3 in 90 mins, not decently anyway. And once you’ve factored in the admin time, that hourly rate ain’t looking great.

    But, if you don’t have the knack or the skills or the experience to do this sort of work effortlessly, why invest in it? You do have other skills.

    A repeated theme here is the inability of journalists to cope with numbers. You can, so that’s a great competitive advantage for all sorts of writing gigs.

  14. I seem to have a certain difficulty in finding those gigs where that numeracy is an advantage.

    But to walk back a little on this particular point. Part of this is just a whine that the one type of work that is out there in vast quantities is a type that I can’t seemingly do. Boo Hoo!

  15. The other point here is that admin time bit. The whole point of this sort of work is that there is none. You access this sorta stuff through a portal. Log on, do one, file it, await payment. There’s no selling to do, no invoicing etc.

  16. “But to walk back a little on this particular point. Part of this is just a whine that the one type of work that is out there in vast quantities is a type that I can’t seemingly do. Boo Hoo!”

    I must admit, I’d get a snort out of imagining you drafting breathless nebulousnesses for Cartier or some such…

    ” …. 75 years in the conception, a legacy unparalleled of timeless love, forged by blind Parisien midgets working by chased, filligreed Tilly Lamps and using only balsa wood chisels, Boucheron proudly presents the Automobile Watch …”.

  17. Is there enough wordage in your slag heap re-working enterprise for a small book?
    That sounded pretty interesting but I assume red tape killed it?

  18. Well, to answer the question posed;

    UDemy run courses. Maslen wrote a book. The basic techniques probably crop up in many SEO or landing page optimization books. O’Reilly have a book on the topic.

    Alternatively, go through a few, and re-write using synonyms, hopefully retaining the meaning.

    I can understand the “hey, why can’t I do this?” problem, but I don’t quite understand the market for this stuff, so what are these portals of which you speak?

  19. And, whilst I’m at it; this doesn’t half look like it can be automated, at least some way.

  20. CNet runs one, called Metro. There are several others. Someone like Best Buy uses an agency to get those product descriptions written. They tend to pay 5 or 6 cents a word for 200 to 350 word descriptions. This is low on the food chain stuff. But it has that merit of there being near unlimited amounts to be done. There is no time spent finding a buyer etc.

  21. Ah. Umm, I really don’t think this works quite the way you seem to be hoping it does.

    It looks to me like the underlying customer, Best Buy (or Next, or Screwfix, or Asos, or whoever) are doing seasonal updates to product lines, which might run into the many hundreds of items, all of which need to go live at once.

    Their requirement is for highly structured text, with very narrow windows for accept/reject, based on tight rules. There’s probably no edit cycle, and limited feedback available.

    The rate paid will probably ramp up to an acceptable(-ish) level, once you can demonstrate an acceptably low error rate, but the flow required probably ramps up markedly as well. But if you can’t meet the desired flow, then both rate and flow will drop off, probably very quickly.

    I don’t think you’ll be banging a handful out over a long lunch for $25 whenever it suits, it’s going to be 50 by close of play today, thank you very much, and you’ve got 15 minutes to accept the mission.

  22. It might be a good thing if some online retailer could make the ‘mistake’ of not using a formulaic robot to write the product descriptions. There might be a chance then that the descriptions would be useful instead of being a half-baked rehash of the manufacturers catalogue, itself a product of a similar drudge.

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